Evangelical Christian leader James Dobson has not endorsed a candidate for the Republican nomination, but his statement today declaring he would sit out the general election if Sen. John McCain becomes the GOP winner was quickly highlighted by Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign.
Dobson, who noted he was not speaking in his capacity as founder and head of Focus on the Family, said he’s “deeply disappointed” the Republican Party appears to be ready to nominate the Arizona senator, who is considered the front-runner ahead of tonight’s results in the 22 Super Tuesday contests nationwide.
“I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are,” Dobson said in a statement read on Laura Ingraham’s nationally syndicated radio show. “He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party.”
The Romney campaign posted audio of Dobson’s statement on YouTube, but Dobson said he had not picked a candidate yet. He told Ingraham this morning, nevertheless, that the former Massachusetts governor has impressed him.
“I’ve spent an hour an and a half with him. I liked him. I mean he’s very presidential and he’s got the right answers to many, many things. I haven’t made a decision yet, but let’s just say he’s still on the list.”
Dobson pointed to reports McCain considered leaving the GOP in 2001 and that he was regarded a possible running mate for Sen. John Kerry in the 2005 presidential race.
As WND reported in November, top Focus on the Family leaders denied a report that Dobson had decided to endorse former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination.
Dobson said he is unhappy the GOP “seems poised to select a nominee who did not supported a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the gang of 14 to preserve filibusters and who has a legendary temper and who often uses foul and obscene language.”
McCain, Dobson also pointed out, “said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down.”
“I cannot and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain as a matter of conscience,” Dobson said. “But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime.”
Dobson said he definitely would not vote for Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, “based on their virulently anti-family policy positions.”
“If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life,” he said.
“These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I’m affiliated,” he concluded. “They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs and about the welfare of our country.”
Dobson was among top pro-family activists who met in Salt Lake City Sept. 29 to plot a strategy should former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or another supporter of legalized abortion be nominated. Not only was there a consensus among activists to withhold support for the Republican nominee, there was even discussion about supporting the entry of a new candidate to challenge the frontrunners.
In November, Pat Robertson surprised many pundits by endorsing Giuliani, who sharply differs with the evangelical leader on key social issues such as abortion and homosexual rights.
Dobson, in an exclusive column for WND in March, said he would not back Giuliani – who dropped out of the race last month – because of his “unapologetic” support for abortion on demand. Dobson later said he couldn’t back McCain either, because of the Arizona senator’s opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
In addition to his rejection of Giuliani and McCain, Dobson already was on the record giving a thumbs down to the candidacy of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.
Thompson responded to Dobson’s rebuff in a TV interview in October, suggesting the Focus on the Family founder’s opinion of him was not representative of evangelical Christian leaders.
Asked by Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity whether it would be helpful to have a conversation with Dobson, Thompson replied, “I have no idea. I don’t particularly care to have a conversation with him.”
“If he wants to call up and apologize again, you know, it’s OK with me,” Thompson said. “But I’m not going to dance to anybody’s tune.”
Thompson, who said he has never spoken with Dobson, was referring to two separate occasions in which Dobson expressed skepticism about his candidacy. In March, according to Thompson, a Dobson aide telephoned him to “kind of apologize the first time he attacked me and said I wasn’t a Christian.” As WND reported, Dobson was quoted by U.S. News and World Report saying, “Everyone knows [Thompson's] conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for, [but] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”
A spokesman for Focus on the Family later issued a clarification, explaining Dobson did not mean to disparage Thompson and was “attempting to highlight that to the best of his knowledge, Sen. Thompson hadn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.”
Then, in September, in a private e-mail to friends reported by the Associated Press, Dobson said he won’t be supporting Thompson: “Not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”